Response to stories suggesting coffee can protect against cancer

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Articles on Wednesday 15th June 2016 in the Daily Mail and a New York Times blog reported that “Health chiefs tell us coffee could keep cancer at bay” and that “Coffee May Protect Against Cancer”.

Professor Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, University of Cambridge, said:

“The IARC report on which these articles are based suggests that coffee drinking might be associated with a reduced risk of endometrial (womb) cancer and liver cancer. The evidence for this protective effect is not strong as the studies are all observational and so bias and confounding factors (things that are associated with coffee drinking which might be the true cause of any association with cancer) are potential problems. It would be inappropriate to consider coffee to be a preventative agent for these specific cancers.

Headlines such as “Health chiefs tell us coffee could keep cancer at bay” are utterly misleading because first it implies coffee would reduce the risk of any cancers – not just the two specific cancers – and second because it implies that the evidence is stronger than it is.”

Professor Paul Pharoah: “I have no conflicts to declare.”


Published: 15 June 2016